U.S. Dependence on Mideast Oil Held Increasing

United Press International

Expert witnesses testifying Wednesday at a Senate hearing confirmed fears of a growing U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East, disagreeing only on when it will exceed domestic production.

John Lichtblau, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, said the United States would be importing more than half of its oil by the mid-1990s. Scott Jones, vice president of Chase Econometrics Inc., said this would occur by 1992 or earlier.

The predictions came in response to questions by Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, during a hearing on the world oil outlook.

"Every analyst I have heard from paints a depressing picture of the prospects for domestic oil production," Johnston said. "We can expect increasing levels of oil import dependence. And those imports will inevitably come from the Middle East."

An import fee proposed by Bennett would have an immediate positive effect, Lichtblau said, but he said it also could hurt the economy by raising energy costs.

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